David Letterman's Double Standard
The shocking thing about the late-night comic’s “joke” about Willow Palin isn’t just that he told it, but that he would never have considered doing the same about the daughter of a Democrat.
When I first read about David Letterman’s comments about Sarah Palin and her 14-year-old daughter, Willow, I twittered that his remarks were “disgusting and sexist.” That is still how I feel, and I thought his rebuttal was borderline insulting. After claiming to never have made a joke about raping a 14 year old, which he essentially had, he then invited Sarah to come on his show, which of course she will not. Why would Sarah Palin go on David Letterman as a response to his jokes about her and her daughter? The invitation seems contrived and like the rest of this controversy—wrapped in political motivation on his part.
Sexist attitudes toward women are nothing new and sadly still commonplace, including on late-night television.
“I am certain that David Letterman would never make a joke about Malia being raped by Eliot Spitzer or refer to the first lady as looking “slutty.”
However, there seems to be such an aggressive double standard for Republican women as opposed to Democrat women. Would David Letterman ever make such a joke about President Obama’s daughters (or for that matter Al Gore’s, or substitute another high-profile Democratic politician)? President Obama’s daughter Malia is not much younger than Willow, and I am certain that David Letterman would never make a joke about Malia being raped by Eliot Spitzer or refer to the first lady as looking “ slutty.” Why is it funny to make fun of a 14-year-old girl, no matter who her mother is, let alone that of one of the most prominent female politicians in the country?
During the election, one of the things I never got over being shocked by was the sexism the media held toward my mother and Sarah. I recently read an interview in GQ magazine with Jay Leno where he credited some of his success to never letting the public know where his politics lay. I have always respected that about Jay Leno. I have absolutely no idea how he feels about Sarah Palin or President Obama personally, and at the end of the day I don’t care. He was always respectful toward me and my family even in the jokes (and he has in the past directed some at me personally during his monologue).
Neither I, nor the rest of the country, go to our late-night comics to hear about their personal politics. That is what Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow are for. If that was the desired career of these comics, they should have gone into a different field of work. I think the Sarah Palin-David Letterman controversy is just another example of media bias. There seems to be little effort to shield the political leanings of many journalists and comedians anymore. At the end of the day, David Letterman’s show is David Letterman’s show, but as Jay Leno recently pointed out, by being overtly political either way, you alienate half of the country. As someone who has always been a fan of David Letterman, I have become more and more disappointed and yes, dare I say disgusted about his attitude toward Sarah Palin and her daughters. Is it too much to ask to leave a 14-year-old girl out of a late-night joke? Apparently in today’s media, yes it is, especially when it is the daughter of a Republican politician.
Meghan McCain is originally from Phoenix. She graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She previously wrote for Newsweek magazine and created the Web site mccainblogette.com.